In Florence, as in the Marx Brothers’ A Night At The Opera, there was no sanity clause. A goal after 16 seconds lit the touchpaper on an evening of technological fireworks. There were so many reviews required that it felt like the final whistle might not sound until way after midnight. And, at the end of it all, who had any clue if the result was a fair one?
The game highlighted, once again, the growing pains of the Video Assistant Referee. At the end of the evening, understandably it was Inter who will have felt the greatest pain after having come within moments of victory. To miss out through what only the most generous interpretation could have given as a penalty will have hurt even more.
Handball decisions in Italy were always borderline, but the last one of the night - unless they had another angle that we ordinary punters could not see - looked like it struck chest first. Self-preservation in light of previous incidents in the Stadio Artemio Franchi was no justification for conceding such a spot-kick.
Luciano Spalletti was raging at the points lost and carried on his tirade in his post-match interview. If the system was supposed to take the heat out of such situations, it has singularly failed to do so. If we knew there was work to be done to fine tune the way things operate before this encounter, it only became even clearer afterwards. VAR should be a great tool for avoiding glaring errors from the match officials, but it still doesn’t seem to be achieving this goal. To err is human, of course, but some mistakes - like Sunday night’s - should really be avoided.
The technology was involved in giving the green light to two goals which were extremely narrowly onside, in finding a penalty and confirming another one, and in disallowing a strike. Unfortunately, that overshadowed what was actually a very entertaining game - especially for anyone who had watched England’s goalless big matches earlier in the day. There was a lot of good for both sides to take from the match - and lessons to learn - if they wanted to.
The Nerazzurri - despite their well-publicised problems with Mauro Icardi or possibly because of them - are starting to look more like a team than they have for much of the season. There were spells when they broke with great style and looked a better unit than they have on many occasions. Another couple of points would have been helpful for their Champions League qualification hopes, but they still look like a top four side. Matteo Politano’s lovely strike was something to savour as well.
As for Fiorentina, they showed quite some spirit in the face of what they felt was a match which was conspiring against them. This has been a quality they have displayed for a while now and means they still have dreams of a Europa League spot. However, a Coppa Italia Final place might be a more realistic goal - although a feisty Atalanta side will have something to say about that. Luis Muriel’s thunderbolt free-kick was the gem of their performance.
But it will be VAR that takes the headlines from this game and the efforts that still need to be made to get it working quicker and better. Italy is a country where, even if God came down from Heaven to deliver the decisions, we could still argue about it. Nonetheless, a crazy Sunday night in Florence showed that something less than divine intervention is required to sort this out.
Common sense and cool heads could go a long way. Mind you, if we had those would we be Italian at all?